THE UNIVERSITY of Santo Tomas, our alma mater is no longer young. Next year we will celebrate its 400th anniversary of establishment. But it remains young because of the presence of the students who rejuvenate it annually, the energetic administrators, faculty members, and employees who infuse with vitality and a sense of mission, the army of alumni who incarnate their ideals of the University; and of course, the presence ad influence of God who continue to shower it with exhilarating and unexpected bleessings.

If you come to think of it, UST is indeed a blessed educational institution. The fact that it has survived several colonial battles for supremacy, two world wars, countless calamities and disasters, economic and political upheavals in the country, internal intrigues and struggles, is a clear proof that UST is an institution imbued with an unending grace. Two years ago, a group of valiant men- alumni and professors of UST- was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI. Throughout the centuries, the University has produced not only excellent political leaders, outstanding academicians, model professionals, but also saints, heroes, and martyrs. Are we not lucky to have such exalted pedigree?

As Thomasians and as Filipinos, you, our dear graduates, have many reasons to feel blessed. Perhaps you can imbue our countrymen with the same joyful disposition, especially now that many of them are afflicted with a pervasive sense of pessimism.

A few years ago, the print advertising organization of the Philippines issued a one-page advertisement in several newspapers that read: “Kidnappings, Bombings, Beheadings: This is the Perfect Time to Visit the Philippines”. These were written in big, bold letters. At the bottom of the page is printed in small letters:” and this is the best time to find out the real truth, that more than 70 million Filipinos are peace loving, and the friendliest people you’ll ever meet. ”

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I was deeply disturbed by the advertisement. Why did the words “kidnappings, bombings, and beheadings” deserve to be printed in big, bold letters while the truth that more than 70 million Filipinos are peace loving, and the friendliest people was printed only in small, almost readable letters?

Marshall McLuhan once said that advertising, “medium is the message.” If that is the case, then the Print Advertising Organization of the Philippines had suceeded in sennding the following message: “Beware of going to the Philippines. You might get kidnapped, bombed, beheaded, and the 70 million friendly Filipinos will not be there to help you because they were hardly visible.”

Often, the media prefer to publish and broadcast the graft and corruption of government officials, the abuses of military and police officials, the greed and avarice of businessmen, and the evil deeds of lawless sectors of the society. It is not surprising, therefore, that the good and honest Filipinos have become invisible because their good deeds have been overshadowed by the sensationalized evil practices of the few bad ones.

No wonder, in a survey conducted by a polling agency, many respondents agreed with the statement: “This country is hopeless and I would like to migrate somewhere else if I could.” This statistics of despair has been hounding us and frustrating our best efforts, thanks to a mass media that tends to favor bad news than good news.

I believe you, the Thomasian graduates, can do something to reverse this trend. Evil flourishes in our country because the good Filipinos are silent. Our country challenges you to make your voices heard, to wage protest against the large-scale demolition of the Filipino image, and to prove that Ninoy Aquino was right when he said that the Filipino is worth dying for. You can no longer assume the attitude of being guilty by-standers, especially now that the national election is fast approaching.

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You might ask: “But we are young, how can we ever make an impact in society?” Do you know that Filipinos aged 15-30 constitute around 30 percent of the total population? If you add to this the active work force, the total number would be enough to produce the votes needed for a truly qualified person to be elected to public office. Until now, so many politicians whose only assets are their faces, their wealth, or their popularity understood that in a decromacy, number is power.

This lack of understanding has resulted in a wasted oppurtunity. If only the youth understood their extraordinary collective power, the same colllective power that gave rise to the revolution of 1898, and the unforgattable Edsa revolution, perhaps our ccountry would be indeed great again. I hope you, the young Thomasian , will suceed where we, your elders have failed.

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